Cheryl and I went last night to see my son in “The Pirates of Penzance.” It was a wonderful production, very professional. We were quite surprised and pleased. This is my son’s second acting job with this production company. The theater you see is in an old 1950’s service station that has been converted to have a stage, lobby and art co-op. The building that houses the “73rd Avenue Theater Company” also houses a gallery of sorts, a place for local artists to display their works. It’s quite an interesting enterprise to find in the midst of a more or less rundown part of Westminster.
My son didn’t have a large part in the play, but that wasn’t our only purpose in being there. We were there to support him and the theater troupe, and the artists and everyone involved in this endeavor. We believe there are not enough artists in this world. There is always room for more. Everyone has a creative side, and it should be the case that we, in our society feel obliged to try to contribute to our society rather than just being good consumers.
Entertainment is HUGE business in our society. We have gotten to the point where most of us think that we should just be “entertained” all the time. We expect it of our media, we expect it nearly everywhere we go. It’s pervasive, from McDonald’s “Happy Meals” (do kids want the food or the toy?) to our News media, where “sensational” is the rule, rather than the exception.
For our honeymoon back in 2000, Cheryl and I were fortunate enough to get to go to Bali. What an amazing place! There, several hundreds of years ago, their society flourished because of several factors. First, they have a nearly ideal climate, and that leads to 3 rice-growing seasons per year. Next, they are on an island surrounded by waters chock full of all kinds of fish. You see when there was no hunger to worry about, the people had lots of time for other activities. They had what we would term a very advanced society that has carried over and become an influence to much of the rest of the world today. Art is something that almost everyone does in Bali, from the beautiful dancers and musicians who tell wonderful stories, to the carvers and such who produce such common wares as wooden patio furniture to beautiful masks and chess sets.
What was different about the Bali of the past and our present society is where I think we have gone wrong. In our Western notion, we put more emphasis on pleasure rather than performance. It’s as if the hedonistic aspects of the “experience” of the art form have overcome the expression of it, and art is no longer valued for what it contributes to society but for how much pleasure it can bring to the individual. I am not saying there should not be pleasure in art – for art’s sake – but the good of it should be in the expression of it, the sense that we are all participating in producing art, and seeking the higher existential aspects of life, rather than simply existing.
Goodness, I had no idea my feelings about art ran so deep!
What I think though, and this is how this relates to community theater, is that we all should be supporters of those who seek to produce art – in any form. We must support and encourage them. When we do, we also are making a stand and saying that what they do is important to us. I will not, here, get into a discussion of what defines art. For most of us, that’s not a question. Community Theater is art, in its best form I believe. When it’s well delivered, as was last night the case, it’s art, combined with music and literature. It transcends our daily existence and takes us someplace completely different. In this case, it took us to England, somewhere in the 19th century, to a place with pirates, beautiful girls, and a man with a conscience.
It’s a beautiful thing.